Mayor Karin Wilson announced the resignation of Economic and Community Development Director Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop Sunday, opening a vacancy in the city that may never be filled.
Bloodworth Botop, who was hired by the mayor in 2017, is leaving to become deputy director of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. Last month, Planning Director Wayne Dyess also resigned to accept the position of county administrator for the Baldwin County Commission.
The City Council has since adopted a higher pay scale for the planning director and the position is currently advertised. But on Monday, Wilson explained it has been an ongoing challenge to retain department heads with low staffing levels she said are imposed by the City Council and the economic and community development director position may remain unfilled.
“All of our department heads and directors have accomplished a great deal in a short period of time and they are all passionate about what they do and motivated to move the city forward,” she said. “We can’t expect them to do everything to reach their goals unless we fund their efforts. Until we get to a point where directors can hire the help they need to fulfill the role for which they were hired, it’s going to be difficult retaining the caliber of leadership we have in every department.”
Wilson created the Economic and Community Development Department shortly after entering her first term but it was never fully funded by the Council after their annual budget amendments. In her position, Bloodworth Botop was responsible for overseeing collaboration between departments and seeking out grant money, among other things.
“You can’t have a department of one, and ever since I created it, the Council has never seen a need for it,” Wilson said. “In Sherry-Lea’s case, her position was defunded shortly after she uprooted her family and accepted the job.”
The mayor suggested turnover in the administration could be limited with the addition of a city manager or administrator, the latter of which is not supported by the City Council and the former is a proposal defeated by residents in a special referendum last fall.
The city has also been without a treasurer since October 2018, when Mike Hinson allegedly resigned rather than appeal a performance review. He had been on the job for about a year. The City Council is responsible for the appointment of a treasurer.
Wilson said the finance department has been more efficient without a treasurer, but if the Council chooses to appoint someone new, she hopes they will consider restructuring the department.
Meanwhile Bloodworth Botop said her new position will allow her to serve the city in a different way.
“I have enjoyed working at the City of Fairhope and playing a role in protecting this special city,” she said in a statement. “In my new position, I look forward to continuing that relationship in a different way starting with work on the health of Fly Creek. The creek plays a significant role in the water quality of the Mobile Bay, which plays a central role in our future economic and environmental prosperity.”
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